The first thing you'll notice about Stellar Cartography when you get your hands on it, after noting it's a pretty hefty volume, is that it's much more than a book. What you get is a folding box (with a nifty magnetic panel to keep it all neat when it's closed up), with the actually book held in the center (with a little ribbon behind it to make it easy to pop out from its boxed in holding place). There are two envelopes on the panels either side, each of which hold five maps printed on sheets a smidge over 60x90cm. The book is written by Larry Nemecek, with the maps illustrated by Ian Fullwood, Geoffrey Mandel, and Ali Ries.
|Stellar Cartography's contents|
Just the experience of open this up and unfurling all the maps is pretty fun, but also a practical way of keeping the whole set together; in contrast to the pretty pointless bookstand-thing with last year's Federation: The First 150 Years. In common with the Federation book, this set is built upon the conceit of being a hard-copy reproduction of information retrieved in-universe from Memory Alpha. The present day is shortly after the Hobus supernova in 2387, although the maps are dated up to 2386, so they don't have to take into account any fallout from the destruction of Romulus.
The book is basically a guide to each of the maps in the set. Each map is reproduced as a two page spread, often slightly differently from the sheet maps, with more or less notation, and/or cropped into a particular section. Two pages then follow discussing what each map depicts, and giving wider historical context. What this book does not do is give the same type of overview of the entire galaxy, and explanation of spacey stuff, that Star Charts did. Star Charts had a lot of information detailing things like how sectors work, what the different types of planet and star are, and more diagrams and details of specific planets and systems. This new book seems to be more about the history of local space, using the maps as a window to frame the subjects it discusses.
Continue after the jump for an overview of each map in the collection:
|The overlap on the two quadrant maps|
Like all the maps in this set, these are built upon the layout of space established in the previous Star Charts book, with a few extra locations added in later seasons of Enterprise. Curiously while the position of Hobus (the star that went supernova and destroyed Romulus in subspace shockwave, as seen in nuTrek stories) has been established in other maps in the set, it is not marked on Beta Quadrant map. The look of the Alpha and Beta Quadrant maps is a little simplified from the Star Charts format, the stars are marked with twinkling star icons, rather than giving technical information about the star-types, and there are just sector grid-lines very faintly marked, no other information on trade routes and such like. This leaves the maps a lot less busy, so they work nicely for a general overview of the quadrants.
|Details from the Federation's south, including Vanguard.|
This map is bursting with information; I've spent a long time looking around, taking in every detail, not just of boarders and stars, but many different journey lines marked in, noting the paths taken by various ships of historical note. It's a bit like a treasure hunt looking at this map, my favourite find was locating Starbase 47: Vanguard, which has snuck in from the novel series. Also marked is the original boarder of the Federation at its founding, a tiny area of space in the sea of blue of the 24th century Federation. While much of the content of the map is carried over from Star Charts, it's a completely different experience reading it on one sheet, a much better experience I'd say. There are also some significant additions, with the Delphic Expanse (from the third season of Enterprise), and Hobus, now marked in.
Around the edges of the map are some inset sections with additional information. Down the right side the Founding planets of the Federation are all detailed, with information like population and capital cities listed. At the bottom right there is a key, explaining how the map marks star types, different types of starbases and such. In the bottom left there is an overview of the galaxy, showing all four quadrants and noting various significant locations and journeys taken. And top left is a blown up detail of part of the map, showing more information around the more densely charted area of space around Earth and Cardassian space.
|Vulcan and T'Khut|
|Details around Deep Space 9|
|One of the Romulan War battles|
So that's all ten maps. It was after going through them the first time something dawned on me: Where the heck are the Delta and Gamma Quadrants? Despite all the maps in the set being listed prior to publication, I hadn't realised until I got it, what wasn't included. DS9 is at least quite well serviced by the excellent Dominion War map, but Voyager fans seem rather left out without some Delta Quadrant love. The Voyager section of Star Charts was my favourite part of the book too, with it joining up all the territories of the recurring aliens, and charting Voyager's jumps and such on the journey home; it would have been amazing to have that as one long sheet. The lack of maps of both Quadrants also seems an odd omission from an in-universe perspective on the concept of the collection; you'd think the rare mapping of both distant quadrants would be a stellar cartographical treasure!
Those curious omissions aside this is such a great product. It's all about the maps; having them as big sheets, rather than broken down into pages of a book as before, is a wholly different experience; it's much easier to see how things are arranged from one area of space to another, much easier to take in the entire picture. We get a good variety of maps here, from the beautiful art pieces, and aliens maps, through to the most information dense History of the Federation map, and the enlightening Dominion War map.
The book in this set is very much a guide to the specifics of each map included, and isn't a replacement for Star Charts; that older book still has the upper hand in terms of giving an overview of how space works in the Trekverse. I would imagine the new book does make things much more accessible for a more casual Trek fan, as it gives a lot more context than Star Charts did. Had there been no book at all though, this would still be more than worth getting, just for all the brilliant maps.